Monday, December 11, 2006

Social Corporations

Can we have Dr Yunus' "social business" or "social corporation" while society is shackled by the dictatorship of capital? Dr. Muhammed Yunus, 66, is founder of the Grameen Bank. The 2006 Nobel Peace prize was awarded 1/2 to Yunus and 1/2 to Grameen Bank for their work to fight poverty. The Grameen Bank was founded in 1976 to provide microcredit to poor people in developing nations.

From the New York Times (my comments in italics brakets):
Out to Maximize Social Gains, Not Profit

“Its lanes will be taken over by the giant trucks from powerful economies,” Dr. Yunus said during a lavish ceremony [code by NY Times writer to show how hypocritical Yunus is to talk about poverty in such settings, sacre bleu!] at which he was awarded the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. “Bangladeshi rickshaws will be thrown off the highway.”

While international companies motivated by profit may be crucial in addressing global poverty [why? Their net effect is to create poverty], he said, nations must also cultivate grassroots enterprises and the human impulse to do good.

Challenging economic theories that he learned as a Ph.D. student at Vanderbilt University, in Nashville in the 1970s, he said glorification of the entrepreneurial spirit has led to “one-dimensional human beings” motivated only by profit.

Dr. Yunus, 66, then took a direct jibe at the United States for its war on terror, telling about 1,000 dignitaries at Oslo’s City Hall that recent American military campaigns in Iraq and elsewhere had diverted global resources and attention from a more pressing project: halving worldwide poverty by 2015, as envisaged by the United Nations six years ago [How is this a jibe? It is a simple fact that spending on war takes away from spending on other priorities. Again we see the non-objective nature of the NYT and it support for the, albeit liberal, imperialist project].

“Never in human history had such a bold goal been adopted by the entire world in one voice, one that specified time and size,” he said. “But then came Sept. 11 and the Iraq war, and suddenly the world became derailed from the pursuit of this dream.”

He said terrorism cannot be defeated militarily and the concept of peace requires broadening. “Peace should be understood in a human way, in a broad social, political and economic way,” Dr. Yunus said.

He called for legal recognition of a new category of corporation that would be neither profit-maximizing nor nonprofit. It would be a “social business,” like Grameen Bank, the Dhaka-based microcredit institution he started 30 years ago. The bank has lent nearly $6 billion to help some of the poorest people on earth to start businesses, build shelters and go to school.

Grameen Bank — with which Dr. Yunus shared the prize today — is an interest-charging, profit-making business with more than 2,200 branches. But it is owned primarily by its poor clients and run for their benefit [sounds like a cooperative to me]. Similarly structured institutions, he said, could bring health care, information technology, education and energy to the poor without requiring infusions of aid.

“By defining ‘entrepreneur’ in a broader way, we can change the character of capitalism radically and solve many of the unresolved social and economic problems within the scope of the free market,” he said [This is a GREAT point! Social entrepreneurs is a good idea insofar as it takes a familiar concept from Darwinian capitalism and morphs it, channeling ambitious behavior for the social good].

He traveled to Oslo with nine of the bank’s board members. Four of them are among Bangladesh’s nearly 300,000 “telephone ladies,” each of whom once borrowed money to buy a mobile telephone and now earns money charging rural villagers to use it.

Norwegian Nobel Committee Chairman Ole Danbolt Mjoes called microcredit “a liberating force” for women and Muslims, many of whom have traditionally shunned interest-charging institutions.

“All too often, we speak one-sidedly about how much the Muslim part of the world has to learn from the West,” said Prof. Danbolt Mjoes. “Where microcredit is concerned, the opposite is true: the West has learned from Yunus, from Bangladesh, and from the Muslim part of the world.”

Thursday, December 07, 2006

We are Nowhere and It's Now

We are Nowhere and It's Now
Bright Eyes
If you hate the taste of wine
Why do you drink it till you're blind?
And if you swear that there's no truth and who cares
How come you say it like you're right?
Why are you scared to dream of God
When it's salvation that you want?
You see stars that clear have been dead for years
But the idea just lives on...

In our wheels that roll around
As we move over the ground
And all day it seems we've been in between
A past and future town

We are nowhere and it's now
We are nowhere and it's now

In like a ten minute dream in the passenger's seat
While the world was flying by
I haven't been gone very long
But it feels like a life time

I've been sleeping so strange at night
Side effects they don't advertise
I've been sleeping so strange
With a head full of pesticide

I've got no plans in too much time
I feel too restless to unwind
I'm always lost in thought as I walk a block
To my favorite neon sign

Where the waitress looks concerned
But she never says a word
Just turns the juke box on and we hum along
And I smile back at her

And my friend comes after work
When the features start to blur
She says these bars are filled with things that kill
By now you probably should have learned

Did you forget that yellow bird?
How could you forget your yellow bird?
She took a small silver wreath and pinned it onto me
She said this one will bring you love
And I don't know if it's true
But I keep it for good luck

Monday, December 04, 2006

Ecuador Elects Leftist Government

Ecuador elects leftist president Rafael Correa, who calls for an end to the "long, sad neoliberal night." CBS News reports:
Ecuador's president-elect joins a wave of Latin American leaders swept into power opposing the free-market economic policies that are preached by Washington but are hugely unpopular among the region's poor.

After two decades of privatization and trade liberalization across the hemisphere, leftist leaders _ most notably Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and Evo Morales in Bolivia _ are exerting more state control over their nations' economies to promote wealth distribution.

Rafael Correa, the U.S-educated economist who will take over the presidency of this small Andean nation in January, says he will apply the same prescription in his country, where three-fourths of its inhabitants live in poverty despite Ecuador being South America's fifth largest oil producer.

Correa, 43, plans to tighten government control over the banking system and expand the state oil company's role in production and commercialization of Ecuador's oil.

He also wants to cut ties to international lending institutions, including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and has threatened a moratorium on foreign debt payments unless foreign bondholders agree to lower Ecuador's debt service by half.


In his first statements after defeating banana tycoon Alvaro Noboa, Correa criticized the free-market policies that he says have failed to improve the lives of Ecuadoreans and urged them to join him "to overcome 20 years of a long and sad neoliberal night."

Updates to the socialist map project are forthcoming.

Chavez Rides Red Volkswagen to Victory

Hugo Chavez, in a closely observed election, won 61.35% of the vote to secure his presidential bid on December 3rd, 2006. His closest rival, economic and political conservative Manuel Rosales came in with 33.38% of the vote.

Venezuela implemented what many observers regard as the most exhaustive set of electoral safeguards ever seen in Latin America. The new Venezuelan voting system includes fingerprint voter registration, electronic balloting with a paper receipt and on-line transmission of the votes to the National Electoral Council.

Hugo drove to the polls in his red Volkswagen bug dressed in his signature red shirt, black pants and white sneakers. "He dresses like he is one of us," said one of his supporters, reflecting the mood of the majority of the people in this increasingly red nation.

Chavez's social programs and structural changes in this historically divided nation have led to massive economic gains. Land redistribution, urban renewal and infrastructure projects in slum areas have all helped. Thousands of doctors from Cuba and the establishment of clinics and access to clean water and other utilitizes have been a bonanza in a country where, only ten years ago soldiers were ordered to fire on and murder protestors demonstrating for food.

The Economist magazine reports Venezuela's economy growing at an annualized rate of 10.2% in Q3 with a positive trade balance nearing $40 billion (thanks largely to oil exports). This follows consistent double-digit growth since the disasterous 2002 coup attempt and bosses strike/lock-out. The historically feudal-like economic relations in Venezuela are finally coming to an end.

In Venezuela the media is all still controlled by capitalist interests opposed to Chavez and socialism in general. All of the major newspapers and television stations were strongly anti-Chavez and pro-Morales. The same pattern was seen in Mexico, in which case the victory for the right was secured.

Chavez correctly stated in a post election speach delivered to several hundred thousand supporters that "[...] we are facing the very devil," Mr. Chavez said in one of his final speeches before campaigning officially ended. "On Dec. 3, we face at the ballot box the imperialist government of the United States of America. That is our real adversary."

Nevertheless, the liberal capitalist elite in the US is gaining ground quickly as evidenced by the toppling of Donald Rumsfeld and now John Bolton, and the increasing isolation of President George Bush. Tellingly, the US reaction to the Venezuelan elections has been positive and non-confrontational.

In a run-up to the election the right was able to mobilize hundreds of thousands of "middle class" Venezuelans for an anti-Chavez rally - the largest ever. However, this was followed the next day by a pro-Chavez rally involving over 2.5 million people!

See also Lenin's post on the Chavez victory. Long live socialism!